Blue Jays depth needs: Rotation vs. the outfield

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 14: Aaron Sanchez
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 14: Aaron Sanchez /

Now that the Blue Jays have fully addressed their middle infield picture, what is the greater need: upgrading the rotation, or the outfield?

Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro have repeatedly talked about the middle infield being their top priority this offseason, and their moves thus far show that was definitely the case. Before Saturday’s trade with the Padres to bring in Yangervis Solarte, the only  other notable move for the Blue Jays was trading for Aledmys Diaz, another middle infielder. With the two of them on the roster, the Blue Jays should be able to move on to other areas of need.

With that in mind, where should the front office focus their attention next? Some would argue that the outfield is in the greatest need of an upgrade, while others would point to the rotation as having the thinnest depth. Hopefully both areas get addressed before spring training, but if we had to choose, which one deserves the most attention?

The Rotation

As things stand right now, the Blue Jays COULD have one of the better rotations in the American League, as they were expected to in 2017. In order for that to happen, they’ll need a repeat or improved performance from Marcus Stroman, and a more consistent Marco Estrada, and better health from J.A. Happ, who missed significant time last season.

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The biggest key will be Aaron Sanchez, and whether he’ll be the 2016 version that lead the American League in ERA, or the 2017 version who was only able to make eight starts and throw 36 innings, battling fingernail/blister/tendon issues all season long. If Sanchez is healthy and contributing, the Blue Jays have one of the better starters in the league. If not, well then the rotation takes a whole other look.

Beyond those top four, it appears that Joe Biagini would get the fifth starter’s spot as things currently stand today. The front office has expressed confidence in him, and he showed flashes of promise last season. However, I think most would agree that the best scenario for both the team and for Biagini’s long term prospects as a starter, would be for him to begin the year in Triple A.

There should be more pitching help in 2018 than there was last year with the likes of Ryan Borucki, and T.J. Zeuch in the high minors, but the depth is still a little worrisome. When you consider the potential that Sanchez may continue to battle with health issues, and Biagini may not stick as a starter, the Blue Jays could realistically need two arms for the rotation. That appears unlikely, but at the very least one would think they’ll bring in some depth pieces. In an ideal world, an impact starter would really make a big difference with this roster.

The Outfield

Despite the fact that the Blue Jays had one of the least productive outfields in baseball last year, the front office has a fair amount of confidence in the returning group to be better. As things currently stand, the outfield picture is made up of Kevin Pillar, Steve Pearce, Ezequiel Carrera and Teoscar Hernandez, with Anthony Alford another prospect expected to challenge for playing time in 2018. The notable omission of course, is Jose Bautista, who is a free agent and will not be returning.

Admittedly there is a fair amount of upside there, but for a team that has designs on competing in 2018 it seems borderline irresponsible to enter the year without another upgrade. Pillar is adequate because of his glove, but both Carrera and Pearce are liabilities on defence, and Hernandez is a huge question mark at this point.

I understand if the front office doesn’t want to commit to an expensive multi-year deal for someone like J.D. Martinez, or even Lorenzo Cain, but when there are potential 1-2 year options on the market like Carlos Gonzalez, Jarrod Dyson, or even Melky Cabrera or Curtis Granderson, the fit makes an awful lot of sense.

It’s possible that John Gibbons uses one or both of Diaz or Solarte in the outfield as well, but having an upgrade who is a natural outfielder seems like an attainable thing, especially in this incredibly slow market.

Next: Solarte overcame a devastating tragedy in 2016

If it were up to me and I had to pick one (I really feel they need to address both), I’d probably choose the rotation, although it would be a tough decision. Counting on Sanchez to be healthy scares me, and I’m not sure I’m ready to rely on Joe Biagini either, at least not on a team that is trying to make the playoffs. What say you? How should the Blue Jays spend their remaining money?